A Labour councillor arrested while in a Belfast hotel room with his teenage boyfriend has failed in a legal challenge against the police and prosecution service.
Steven Bayes (47) had been seeking a High Court ruling that legislation under which he was detained was discriminatory and incompatible with his right to privacy.
Mr Bayes, who sits on Hull City Council, based his case on Northern Ireland’s higher age of sexual consent at the time of his arrest. It has since been lowered to 16, bringing it in to line with Britain.
He was held on suspicion of gross indecency and other offences when police swooped on the Holiday Inn, University Street, in December 2007.
The former Humberside Police Authority Chairman had been in Belfast with his partner Dale Martin, who he met earlier that year through the internet. Mr Martin was 16 when they first made contact.
Although a report was prepared for the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), Mr Bayes learned in July this year no action would be taken because it was not in the public interest.
The councillor and 19-year-old Mr Martin, who are now engaged, launched legal proceedings against the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the PPS.
Judges hearing the application for a judicial review were told the alleged breaches of their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights involved the arrest of Mr Bayes and questioning of his partner, the seizure of property and searches of their homes, the hotel room and work places.
The politician said police raided the Guildhall in Hull and the House of Commons where he worked as a research officer for Labour MP Linda Riordan.
However, the legal challenge was dismissed largely due to the delay in bringing it before the court.
The lord chief justice, Sir Declan Morgan, pointed out the changes in law around the age of consent were introduced in February.
“The legal landscape and architecture in respect of those provisions has changed,” he said.
Following the ruling Mr Bayes insisted the judicial review could only have been brought after he learned a prosecution was not being pursued.
He also hit out at how police handled his case, claiming they must have known Northern Ireland’s age of consent was to be lowered.
“The police just came in with their big stomping feet all over everything and didn’t look at it, bearing in mind the law was changing,” he said.
“If it wasn’t in the public interest in July 2009 it wasn’t in the public interest … in December 2007 and they should have known that.”
Mr Bayes stressed how he believed his partner was 18 when they first met online.
He pointed to their still being together as evidence that there was nothing “predatory” in his actions.
The councillor, who was returned with an increased majority following the publicity surrounding his arrest, said Mr Martin moved over to live with him in November 2007.
The couple had returned to Northern Ireland to collect personal belongings when police arrived at their hotel room.
At the time he was tipped to succeed former deputy prime minister John Prescott as an MP but ended up withdrawing from the process when he was suspended from the party for a time.
With his lawyers considering a potential appeal, Mr Bayes said: “If I had talked to Dale on the internet and said to him come and see me in England it is debatable if anything could have been done against me, because he was 16.
“But I wouldn’t have asked him to come because there was a big age difference between us at the time, even though I thought he was 18 and he was mature and we got on well. You don’t ever put people in a situation that they can’t back away from.
“I think I have acted responsibly at all times.”
Fearghal Shiels, solicitor for Mr Bayes and Mr Martin, said after the ruling: “We will give consideration to the transcript of the Divisional Court ruling with a view to lodging an application with the European Court of Human Rights.”